We subsidise train operators to the tune of £1billion a year and subsidise Network Rail by £4billion. Yet managers continue to pay themselves fat, private-sector salaries and bonuses and the companies continue to squeeze the travellers. That is why I believe it is time to take the railways back into public ownership. It was a mistake to privatise them in the first place as it’s allowed private companies to profiteer without regard to public interest.
My opponents in the battle for the Labour leadership are the Miliband brothers, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham. They all claim that it would be too expensive to bring the railways back into public owner ship but they are wrong, it would actually save the public money. For one thing network Rail is effectively state-owned already. The rail infrastructure was effectively renationalised when Railtrack went into administration in 2001.
It would cost nothing to bring back train operations into public hands. The Government would have two options: either it would not renew the franchises when they expire or, as the companies got into financial difficulties, they could be taken over. Additionally private-sector train operators receive a huge direct subsidy from the Government.
This is just subsidising their profits. It would be cheaper and in the public interest to operate the trains directly. The current mess doesn’t serve the general public, the taxpayer or the rail commuter. The Labour Party that I would lead would start listening to the public for the first time in a long time. On the railways, as on other issues, I would introduce policies that made sense instead of running scared of big-money interests.
You can read the whole of Labour leadership hopeful Dianne Abbott’s brilliant Sunday Express article here.